Whether you're a screenwriter, novelist or blogger, you love to write and would do it all the time. However, reality tends to get in the way and annoying details like bills, rent and day jobs make that 6 hour writing session at that little independent coffee shop seem like a far off dream. In the real world we all have to work, and until writing becomes your work, it’s a balancing act of making the two happen simultaneously - without feeling guilty or frustrated all the time.
I’ve put together a list of tips on how to fight back when your day job starts to chip away at your writing. I hope these will help you push back against the daily 9-5 grind:
1. Be Realistic
While finishing that feature length screenplay by the end of the week sounds great, there’s a chance it isn’t going to happen with your 40+ hours per week schedule. Keep yourself in check and make sure your goals are actually doable. If you ask too much of yourself, there’s a chance you’ll get overwhelmed and end up doing less writing than if you just set aside an hour (or more, if your brain is working) in the morning or after work.
2. Use Your Commute for Learning
You’re likely spending a large chunk of your day commuting to your 9-5, so take advantage of that time by getting inspired or learning something thatwill help your writing. Listen to screenwriting podcasts on your mind-numbing drive (The Top 7 Podcasts for Screenwriters). Read a book that will help you with plot or character development while you’re on the Metro (The Top 6 Screenwriting Books to Read Before You Write). It’s a great way to use those mind-numbing commute hours productively.
3. Bring a Notebook Wherever You Go
Whether you prefer a notebook or your notes app, have something on you at all times where you can easily jot down ideas for your writing when inspiration strikes. If there’s ever a lull walking down the sidewalk or waiting in line for lunch, that’s an extra 5 minutes that you didn’t have toward your screenplay.
4. Build Skills at Work
Even though your current job isn’t where you ultimately want to be, there are some skills that can translate to a screenwriting job. Have a presentation? Become confident so you’re ready for pitch meetings. Have to take lunch orders? Work on your organization and memorization skills that will translate into a writer’s room. If you take advantage of these skill-building opportunities you’ll be ready later.
5. Don’t Waste Your Precious Writing Time
When you do get the time to write, really focus and put in the time. Organize your thoughts so when you hop back in next, it’s easier to know where you left off and you can get right to the meat of what you need to accomplish. When you’re working a day job, the time you have to write is limited, so make every minute count.
6. Set Goals For Yourself
Do you know you have Thursday evenings off? Block off an hour or two for writing. Do you tend to scroll through your phone a half hour before bed? Trade that time for writing an outline on that pilot you’ve been brainstorming. Whatever your schedule is, there are ways to fit time in, you just have to be creative about it. Recognize the opportunities and then holding yourself accountable.
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Director of WGA's Showrunner Training Program, creator & Director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program, international speaker and a leading expert on entertainment career strategies, Carole Kirschner teaches creative professionals how to navigate the often mystifying landscape of show business. Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment is a primer on how to break in and move up in the entertainment industry. Through her popular workshops, Carole teaches writers, producers, directors and executives the real world strategies that will help them not just succeed, but thrive.